When Donald Trump enters a New York courtroom on Tuesday to face criminal charges, he will be facing acting New York Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan, who has been described as a tough yet fair judge.
Of course, the former guy sees him differently, as Merchan has presided over other cases in Trump’s orbit, including the Trump Organization accountant Allen Weisselberg and Steve Bannon cases.
Strangely enough, Weisselberg’s attorney had good things to say about Judge Merchan.
“Judge Merchan was efficient, practical, and listened carefully to what I had to say,” Nicholas Gravante, the attorney who represented Weisselberg in his plea, said via email.
“He was clear in signaling his judicial inclinations, which helped me tremendously in giving Mr. Weisselberg informed legal advice. Judge Merchan was always well-prepared, accessible, and — most importantly in the Weisselberg matter — a man of his word. He treated me and my colleagues with the utmost respect, both in open court and behind closed doors.”
Merchan also showed a tough side with Weisselberg, stating that if he had not already promised him a five-month sentence, he would have handed him a “much greater” sentence after having listened to evidence at trial.
Karen Friedman Agnifilo, who in the past has worked at the Manhattan DA’s office, echoed good sentiments about Merchan.
“[Merchan] doesn’t let the prosecutors or the defendants create any issues in his courtroom. He doesn’t let a media circus or any other kind of circus happen. I don’t think Donald Trump attacking him and threatening him is going to bode very well for him in the courtroom,” Agnifilo said.
“The judge is the kind of judge where he will ignore it and not hold it against Donald Trump. He’s not vindictive in any way like that.”
Merchan was born in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1962, when the country was still reeling from a decade-long civil war that killed 2 percent of all Colombians.
He came to the U.S. when he was 6, and was raised in Queens.
In Colombia his father was a military officer, but in the U.S. worked as a dishwasher. His mother worked in food preparation for airlines and at factory jobs.
Merchan himself began working when he was 9, carrying groceries for tips, and then held jobs through high school that included washing dishes at a diner and delivering kosher meat.
The youngest of six children, it was an arduous journey through college and law school, finishing in 1994. He joined the Manhattan DA’s office during Rudy Giuliani’s time as mayor.
Since 2009, he has been an acting justice in State Supreme Court, presiding over felony criminal trials.